“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Working second shift, my mom often left dinner on low in the oven. Sometimes it was a pot roast and other times it was pan of bubbling scalloped potatoes and ham. Along with these dishes, we enjoyed our share of processed food. Hamburger-based meals with stroganoff seasoning packets were a staple in our home. Orange-tinted jar sauce coated spaghetti along with Parmesan cheese shakers, satisfying our Italian longings. And frozen individual potpies seemed fancy with their creamy gravy in flaky pie shells. I thought all cakes came from a boxed mix and made instant microwavable oatmeal for breakfast. My mom did practice her culinary skills on potato salad, cream cheese brownies, and split pea soup. But she left macaroni and cheese to the blue box experts and pizza to the flying war hero.
When I got married, my husband introduced me to old fashioned oats made on the stove. At first, I missed the sweet peaches and cream additives. But eventually, I liked the chewiness and wholesome flavor of ordinary oats that I could sweeten to my liking. This opened my world that not everything had to come prepackaged. Homemade cakes, macaroni and cheese that involved a Bechamel sauce, and pancakes from ordinary ingredients became staples in my home.
I didn’t make pancakes often for my children, but often enough that they knew it took a little time. I started out with a sour cream-based recipe, moving to a buttermilk, and eventually a whole grain pancake recipe. The kids loved pancakes, and they often requested them when they had sleepovers. Once, after flipping sixty-five small pancakes for a group of boys, their insatiable appetites were finally satisfied…temporarily.
Several years ago, Terry was craving pancakes. Wanting a quick fix, he went to the store and bought a complete boxed mix. Maggie, who also loved pancakes, was appalled! She didn’t understand how one could have pancakes without milk, oil, and eggs. She remarked “Just water!” Unashamed by her response, Terry made his pancakes, sharing a few with her. To her surprise, they tasted good. Not only did she like them, but she also preferred the convenience, and likely has a boxed mix in her cabinet, today.
This past month, I have focused on issues women deal with, including boundaries, confidence, joy, and mentoring. I want to close this month by making room at the table for all women to carry out their roles in the way that works best for their lives. This means removing judgment and trusting that God is giving women direction in their own lives.
As a woman, I often define myself by my roles in life. Like most women, I want to have a healthy marriage where Terry and I enrich each other lives. As a mother, I wanted to raise my children to live a life centered on Christ, to be lifelong learners, and to be good stewards of all that God has given them. As a Mimi, I want to impact my grandchildren by being a place where they feel loved and valued. As a woman, I want to make contributions to other people’s lives through my work and volunteering. As a member of the body of Christ, I want to use my giftings to bless my community. I don’t think my ideas are radically different from those of most women I know. Maybe some don’t share the same faith I have, but most women want to be good wives, mothers, grandmothers, employees, and citizens.
In recent years, I have noticed that shawls no longer say one size fits all. Instead, they are often tagged with “one size fits most”. This considers the different heights, shapes, and sizes of women. It feels like such a more inclusive tag, without making others feel less than. I think the idea applies to womanhood in general. It is not a one-size-fits-all model. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, make homemade pancakes, and home educate my children all the way through high school. But, although this was best for my family, it may not be the best choice for others. I have friends and sisters who choose to be working moms. I don’t think any of them had different goals in mind for their children, they just had a different style of carrying out their goals. I have friends who bought boxed pancake mixes, this doesn’t make them less interested in their child’s nutrition. I have friends who have chosen public school for their children, and they are still actively involved in their children’s education by volunteering in their classes and being a part of the PTA.
I wish I could say that I always believed this. But, for a long time I believed my method was best. This was judgmental and hurtful to those I loved. I looked for evidence to support my beliefs and wasn’t afraid to share it, trying to elevate my choices. But this attitude doesn’t champion others or make room for others to see things differently. It doesn’t champion my friend, Liane, who feels a calling to her profession as a lawyer and uses some of her time to advocate for and represent victims of domestic abuse. It doesn’t make room for all my friends who are single mothers working to provide for their families. It doesn’t make room for my friends who are public-school teachers impacting not just her own children, but a whole classroom as well.
I have been on the other side, where my choices were judged. As a new mother, I tried breast feeding for a week. Exhausted with a crying baby, I made the difficult decision to use formula to feed my baby. I remember a friends’ comment when my son developed an ear infection a year later, “That’s right, he didn’t get the good antibodies of a breast-fed baby.” I already felt guilty about my choice, knowing all the research supported her opinion. Her comment didn’t champion my choice. It made me less than, just like my judgments on other’s educational choices made them feel less than.
In the 1990s, the seasonal wheel dictated the colors of a woman’s fashion choices. Depending on your hair color, eye color, and skin tone, you were either a winter, spring, summer or fall. My dark hair and skin tone supposedly made me a winter, and I was relegated to the jewel tones on the wheel. For years, I followed that advice, staying away from soft pinks and gray. I longed for the mint sweaters and crisp yellow shirts, feeling limited because it wouldn’t bring out the best in me. And then in the early 2000s chocolate brown became stylish. I decided to break protocol, and purchased a brown skirt, with a belted brown and copper shirt. And to my surprise, despite what the color wheel indicated, I looked and felt great!
I have the privilege to be a part of a local chapter of MOPS as a mentor, what I lovingly refer to as the older or seasoned mother at the table. All of the moms I have encountered care passionately for their spouses, children, friends and community. They often question if they are doing enough and if they are making the right decisions. Some work part time, others are going back to school, and one is even home educating. My mission is not to say what I did was the best, but to champion these women in their choices and help them feel more confident without all the guilt.
I no longer wear just jewel tones; I wear colors that make me feel confident. I may make homemade pancakes, but I also love the microwavable Indian foods I find at my local grocer. I no longer judge others for decisions that are different than mine. Instead, I look for opportunities to assure other women that their choices are valid. Women’s History Month has shown us that being women hasn’t been easy. I don’t want to make the lives of my sisters and friends any harder than they already are. I am here to support them in any way I can!
I love this, Sherry!! You are so well-versed and I am so glad you are using your gifts to bless other women.